The United Nations (UN) is a group of representatives of 193 countries. This group works together to further peace and harmony in the world.
The most powerful group within the UN is the UN Security Council. This has 5 permanent members (USA, Russia, China, France and the United Kingdom). It also has members of 10 other countries who serve on the Council for 2 years at a time. This is the group that sets the course for the UN.
Another powerful group within the UN is called the International Court of Justice (ICJ). This is the main court of the UN and its job is to help countries to resolve issues that they may have and to ensure that justice is served. It is located in a city called The Hague, in the Netherlands. It is a very powerful body, made up of 15 judges from different countries. These judges are split into groups of 5 each, and each of these groups comes up for election every 3 years. So a judge will get to serve for 9 years before coming up for re-election.
OK. So why are we talking about the International Court of Justice today? 5 judges were up for re-election. Initially there were no other contenders for the positions, but then there was a sixth – Dr. Nawaf Salam, the former Ambassador to the UN from Lebanon. He is well liked and got elected. So there were now 4 spots available and 5 judges contending for them!
The Indian representative at the ICJ is Justice Dalveer Bhandari. He has already served on the ICJ and was formerly a judge at the Supreme Court of India. He was up for re-election against Sir Christopher Greenwood of the UK. The UK is a permanent member of the UN Security Council and has always had a judge on the panel ever since the ICJ started work in 1946.
Yesterday, Sir Christopher Greenwood finally withdrew his name from the hat. Justice Bhandari had the majority of votes from the UN General Assembly, while he himself had the backing of the UN Security Council. A candidate has to win a majority of votes in both groups in order to be elected. Justice Greenwood finally broke the deadlock by withdrawing his name, bowing to the majority vote at the UN General Assembly.
Why does this matter? This is important as this is the first time that a permanent member of the UN Security Council does not have a seat at the International Court of Justice. This may mean many things – maybe some of the other countries don’t like that the UN Security Council has so much power and want to shift the balance a little, maybe other countries don’t think that the UK is as powerful as it once was. These are some of the things that people are talking about. What is clear, is that this is a big win for Justice Bhandari and for India. Congratulations Justice Bhandari!